I have been working on a lot of sewing projects these days. Since I am teaching garment construction classes I have been busy in the studio altering and creating these. One pattern that I have created a few times is Make It Perfect’s Shearwater Kaftan.
This pattern is a loose fitting top, but I wanted to fit it a little closer. I made a few alterations and I will mention these below. Many of my students created this top just fine according to their bust measurement. I just can’t help but constantly alter a pattern to better fit my specific body shape.
Alterations: -Forward shoulder adjustment about 1/2". -Took in some at the sides -Slight swayback adjustment -Lengthened sleeve slightly -Slimmed sleeve width -Length is between the short and the long
My first version I created using Art Gallery Fabrics Sprinkled Peonies Fresh by Maureen Cracknell. This is a great lightweight Voile. I work at Honey Run Quilters and got this fabric from the shop. Since the summers in California are going to be hot, the lightweight cotton Voile is a great fabric! Here are some photos that share my stitches and the accents to the top.
For the sleeve I used a french seam. The sleeve has a little tab and it is visible from the inside. This was great, but it was really difficult to finish the bottom. I tried a few different options, but I am not entirely happy with how these turned out. I created a facing similar to the neckline piece.
I kept the neckline simple. I created bias tape from the original fabric. I used the shorter of the neckline openings.
I serged the top seam. I pressed open and serged each side. On the sleeve I kept the seams toghether. I only serged once. I figured that this would give less bulk. Below are photos from my second version. I used a Double Cotton Gauze for this one.
This is a textile that is Andover Fabric’s Tapestry in Green- Hit Parade by Lizzy House. I believe that this fabric is no longer available. I also added a tie to the front and used the original long length.
One of my tips with working with double gauze is be careful cutting too close to the stitch. When I was working on the tabs for the sleeves I cut too close to it once. The stitch fell away. I remade it and made sure to leave at least a 1/4″ seam allowance before turning it. I will probably create this again and create a short sleeve. The double gauze is also cotton and will be great for summer tops!
This year has been a whirlwind of teaching! It has been such an incredible experience. As an Adjunct Professor I have been teaching both 2D Design and Basic Drawing courses. With the drawing course, it has been an incredible seeing how my students have been developing and building their drawing abilities. My 2D Design students have recently created amazing repeating patterns that are well crafted and really show what they have learned over the semester (Shapes, placement, repetition, color, craft, etc). It has been an incredible opportunity to share my love of what art can do or be in someone’s life.
When I am not in the classroom, I am usually sewing these days. Along with teaching at California State University, Chico, I have been giving garment construction classes at a local Quilt Shop, Honey Run Quilters. These ladies have been an incredible group to work with! I love having the contrast of the younger students wanting to start their careers and women who have had these and are ready for another challenge.
I also love that most of my sewing students are retired teachers and this gives a unique kinship with them. I have focused on creating garments that are made from patterns that they can sew. I am able to teach others how to construct these and give my own helpful hints. Below are some of the clothes that I have created. I will go into further posts with some helpful sewing tips.
I will also start a new newsletter that is full of sewing garment tips. On my future projects I will be sharing photos of what I do as part of the fitting process. For my garment classes, I focus on cutting, measuring and adjusting your patterns to achieve the perfect fit for your specific body shapes. I love this part of sewing and my goal is to have my students try this out with their own projects. As an artist, it is easier for me to experiment with different ways of constructing. It doesn’t scare me to try something that the pattern doesn’t show. Sewing garments connects me with women through history. This act of creating has a tradition and currently I am coming up with ways of bringing this into my artistic practice.
I was talking with a friend on the phone the other day about making her own clothing. I called it, “Garment Construction.” She didn’t know what I meant by “Garment Construction.” I laughed and explained how creating your own clothes is broken down into different parts and actions that come together to create the perfect fitting garment for your specific body. It isn’t just “sewing.”
When I first followed a pattern, I did it blindly and followed the directions to a T. (Shirt shown here) The shirt pulled across my shoulders, the sleeves were too short, the back was tight against my shoulders, etc. I thought that was how you did it. It wasn’t till I got more comfortable with the whole sewing process that I ventured out of what the pattern told me and how I could change things to make them fit perfectly. Lets say that it has taken me years to perfect and learn from each project. That is what I love about sewing though.
I love how you can alter a pattern to fit you and then reuse it to create another project. Alterations can be made to add a new element or style. You can change the color or print and it is really up to you! You are the one deciding what to wear. It is an incredibly liberating feeling! To also tell someone that you sewed something yourself is awesome. Also, the more times you create something, the easier and faster you get.
When beginning your projects it is important to think about what you want to wear. Do you want a nice jacket that you wear all of the time? Do you want a cute dress to wear to a party? How much effort is worth the time you put into a project. I loooove jackets and so I tend to make a lot of these.
A little about my own adjustments that I make with each project.
Forward Shoulder Adjustment: I slope my shoulders forward and this effects my posture. This means that my shoulders are not in a straight line but more bent. This means that a straight shoulder seam doesn’t work. I have to angle out my seam to make up for this. This really helps the jacket to fall properly.
Pointy Shoulder Blades: I have protruding shoulder blades in my back and this means that shirts can pull across tightly. When fitting my muslin, I create a slit at this point and allow the fabric to get more ease.
Sway Back: Lets just say that I have a rounded lower back and a rounded but. This means that after making the shoulder and upper back adjustments I do this. There is usually a gather of fabric that happens in my lower back. I can gather this together for the adjustment.
Front: I wait to do the front till the back is finished. I then cut and alter based off of what looks like it falls best. I may make adjustments around my belly. At this point, I probably have to adjust my side seams as well. You just draw out what would be your new side seam.
Sleeves: I will measure the sleeve against my own length. I sometimes may add length. I usually will change the placement of the sleeve since I adjust the seam for the shoulder.
How I create a garment using a pattern:
Measure Body: Chest, Waist, Hip (Arm or Leg if there are sleeves or pants)
Copy Pattern that best fits chest measurement and adjust to were the pattern matches your size. Copy the original pattern onto banner paper that can be cut up.
Cut out Muslin pieces that are needed for fit (At this point I don’t cut cuffs or neckline, pockets or Facings) I just cut the basic shapes: Front, Back and sleeves. Basically I just cut what will be needed for fitting. Do Stay Stich the seam around the neckline though. This will keep the shape better.
I sew together these pieces using a basting stitch. I know that now I am sewing, ripping, sewing, pinning, taping, marking, cutting, moving, etc. It can be a laborious process but worth it! If you are taking the time to make something from scratch, you will feel even more excited about it when it fits you just right! If I am sewing a jacket, I will sew the front and back together first and fit this. I will wait to add the sleeves once this is set.
Once I get the fabric to the point of fitting (I created a dress form of my own body shape to help with this), I take out a marker. I make notes of where seams are sewn. I then take apart each seam. If there are a lot of pins, I will bring the section over to my sewing machine and stitch it into place.
I then take each piece and iron it. this flattens it into a piece that I can use. This isn’t necessarily the way that I have learned, but over the years this has really worked for me. (So far this does not work for jeans. I am still working on getting this right!) If there are a few adjustments I just go back to the original pattern and work with that. It is best to keep things simple whenever possible. I tend to really want something to fit perfectly though and this means working it till it is just right.
Now I bring the fabric back to the banner paper and create a new pattern piece. Each piece needs to fall flat or it will not work. If I am not sure about it, I will create another muslin and then adjust slightly if needed. I create the facings patterns to match these shapes now. The photo to the left shows the difference in the pattern compared to the original. I like to keep the original pattern in case I go way to far into the fitting tweaking. (Sometimes you have to start again)
Now, I have the pattern. I use this to cut out my final fabric. I now sew the garment in the order that the pattern says. At this point the sewing is the fastest part!
Once you wear garments that fit you right, you see how nice being able to do this yourself is! Being able to adjust a fitted garment for body type is flattering and incredibly satisfying.
Vogue Sewing: This is the newer version of my book. Mine is older yet has had so many helpful pages about fitting.
Fit For Real People: One of my favorite books about fitting! Get this one for sure!
Built By Wendy Dresses: This was the first book that made me think about how I can change a pattern to fit what I wanted.
The Colette Sewing Handbook: I lived in Portland, Oregon at the time of this book being released and attended the book launch! Love her style with the patterns!
I am going to be creating some more garments and sharing my process on here. If you have any questions about my process, feel free to comment or send me an email. I love to see what other people are working on as well!
We have a great studio space set up at our house in the Canyons. When we decided that this space was going to be the studio, I was excited to figure out how to paint it. When I sat up in the space I thought that it was sad that you didn’t see the view of the Canyon that was off in the distance. So, I thought that I would paint a quick mural that gave an impression of the Canyon being there. This brightened up the space a bit, but kept a lot of the green color that I really liked. I then painted some plant graphics to also go along with this theme of being outside.
The studio is a loft space that is above the living room and off of the kitchen. There is a unique door that can be closed or opened. Here it is open.
When the door is closed, I have the backside set up for inspiration, to-do projects and a view of part of my art collection.
The portraits seen here are Michelle Ramin‘s work. There is a collection of paintings from artists during my time living in Portland, Oregon as well as some of my own.
In this window I have the urn for my former dog Topher. When he was alive he was always my in my studio in a sunny spot. This seemed like the perfect place keep him. I still miss this dog so much!!
I found a sewing machine table at a yard sale for $5. I threw together some extra legs for the table so that I could have my Janome machine on it. This machine can come off easily for me to use my serger here as well. My White vintage machine sits perfectly in the table and is what I use for basting stitches. Above this table I set up a shelf that holds my brushes and clear rulers for cutting.
To the left of this is my cutting table. It is adjustable and can even be set at an angle. I got this table at IKEA if you are interested in getting one for your own studio! Above this, I have my threads. To the left I have my rolling rack that has my sewing tools. To the right in the pink drawers are my serger threads, bike inner tube shapes, buttons and beads. The light above was my Grandmother Mary’s Captain lamp. I still need to find a new lampshade for him. The last one didn’t make it through the move.
Behind the table I have my fabrics. Lets just say that I had twice the amount of fabrics before we moved. This is what I have now…I organized it in types: UFO’s (a sewing term for unfinished projects), featured prints, accent prints, “The Insides” (stabilizers, batting, etc.), and garment fabric. It is really helpful to have them in different sections.
Stuart has his table set up here as well. My dress form hangs out in this area. I may be teaching some garment construction classes soon and this guy will be busy. When the door is open, I have my ironing board set up in the open space.
Here is the view out of the studio into the kitchen. I love sitting here while Stuart is cooking dinner. I created a pulley system with this basket to bring stuff up and down. Not sure if it works that great, but nice to have as an option. I also have a Vanessa Calvert sculpture resting in the corner. I enjoy seeing this when I climb down the ladder.
Next to Stuart’s desk is “The Thinker.” I enjoy this little guy in the space because it references historical art in the studio and also reminds me of the artist “thinking” about projects. There is so much that goes into creating something and sometimes just sitting down and figuring out what that can be is one of the hardest parts.
Do you have a space set up at your house for creating things?
Stuart and I have been busy working on projects! We have moved into a lovely house in the Butte Creek Canyon area of Chico, California. This post is about how we created a special window treatment for the kitchen windows. This is Stuart’s design, Shibori dying, and my sewing. Stuart thought that there was already a Japanese look to the windows with the bamboo. Creating curtains with the Shibori technique would fit well with this. We used a guide on how to create a Roman Shade from a Martha Stewart book and adjusted it slightly.
Stuart first got some white cotton fabric, objects to wrap, the Indigo Tie Dye kit, cording, binder clips, rubber bands, a plastic container and water. He wrapped the items with the twine and then prepared the dye-bath.
First he added the soda ash and then the dye. After stirring it together he started to place things into the bath. He was careful not to mix too fast to incorporate air bubbles.
He created some small pieces for some other projects. For the curtains, he wrapped them around pipes.
This is how they came out! Shibori is awesome! Great job Stuart!
Next, he cut some wood strips for the top and we got some Roman Cording Tape that had plastic circles already sewn to them (It can be cut by the yard). I then measured the windows and used my serger to clean up the edges. I used my zipper foot to attach the cording. I sewed on each side of the two white ridges careful not to sew over the white loops. I hemmed the bottom and attached the cording. The rope can be sewn into the bottom, but Stuart wanted it to be removable if needed.
We used some of the dyed twine to put it all together. I stapled the top of the fabric to the piece of wood. I had a bunch of hanging hardware and we used this to hang the curtains to the hooks that were already in the window. We added some little hooks for the rope to connect to. Stuart cut some bamboo for the top and middle and then chunks for the end of the rope.
The curtains can go up and down very easily.
Here is what it looks from the outside. It has been a fun way of working together on a creative project.
This is what it looked like when we first moved in. Stuart added the rest of the bamboo to finish off the top as well. The loft above is the studio. I will share soon what we have done with this space.
I will leave by sharing a shot from my favorite time of day. I love how the light falls in on the plant.
Do you have a window that you would like some tips on? Having a custom window treatment is awesome and well worth the effort of creating it.